The nearly perfect grass

Just sharing my experience with Mombasa grass. It seems to be a nearly perfect permanent tall grass well-suited to a cut and carry system. I’ve had it tested at a reputable lab. During the dryer seasons of the year, the protien is at about 11% and during the normal rainy seasons of the year it’s about 19%.

It is not invasive because it does not produce a seed. Like vetiver, a clump can be divided into many shoots for expanding one’s growing area. But unlike vetiver, even if digging the entire clump, it will grow back beautifully. We had a section of it that we dug up completely because we were going to build a house there. But when we changed our mind and didn’t build the house, within a few months the mombassa looked like it had never been dug.

It is highly productive, growing about an inch a day. We normally normally cut it on a 30 day cycle and it’s typically 36 inches tall. It is highly palatable.

It grows just as well or better with shade as with full sun. It seems to be almost impossible to kill and yet it’s not invasive.

Seed is the quickest easiest way to plant it and it is not expensive. Because each seed has the potential to form an entire clump that is maybe 18 inches diameter, a kilo of seed goes a long ways.

We cut weeds and undergrowth as low as possible before planting and then plant what we call a “two finger pinch” of seed spaced approximately on a 12 inch grid. It germinates quickly and outcompetes all the surrounding weeds. Our “two finger pinch” is approximately 5 to 10 seeds. When planting plants instead of seed, we plant on approximately the same grid spacing or a little wider spacing and it quickly dominates the competition. We normally let it grow to five or 6 feet before the first cutting. Doing so smothers out the competition. After that we normally keep it cut to about 3 or 4 feet tall.

I wish I could find a cover crop that does as good a job of dominating the competition. Mombasa is not a good cover crop because it is almost impossible to kill.

Mucuna is a pretty good cover crop…

Yes it is but only when it is the only crop. In other words, it doesn’t do well when planted with other crops because it takes over everything. Would like to plant some thing in our orchard that would provide organic material and smother out weeds but haven’t found what works very well.

You could try Jack bean (bushy type), which will provide good amount of organic material. It however, will not smother out the weeds and does not provide a lot of matter if grown in the shade…

One opportunity that is often lost on people in seeking an excellence standard to fulfill the Great Commission is the fact that these grasses are great for aiding in water harvesting. If you have water flowing off your land you need to consider that that water could be harvested or saved by increased infiltration or ponding and result in growing more high value crops that are marginal without the water harvesting. So always combine the cut and carry system you are describing with water harvesting and I am available to discuss with you the best methods for doing that that match your situation. I really need to draw up a decision tree for this and if I get enough interest I will do that. Also if you place raised beds, double dug or Zai holes or deep planting stations next to where water is being slowed down and diverted sideways by structures stabilized by the grass. Any time you need to slow down and turn water sideways to divert it you need grass preferably. So why not analyze all the places where water flows off and work backward to install your cut-and-carry systems to maximum benefit and move your cropping systems to higher value crops through the harvested water combined with massive quantities of organic matter and WAD-(Water Absorbed Dependency–a technique I promote for placing fleshy plants in the ground as a moisture reserve) which will store water for long periods of time. Fleshy plants can store water from one growing season or more if you put them in plastic to store them (good way to use those grocery bags).
Everyone should be growing a lot of purslane which is a food source for animals and humans and also a reserve of moisture when put in the planting hole.

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How does one get seeds for this grass, in America?

It very easy. A Google search will show a variety of vendors. Select one selling in the quantities you desire.

Purslane started growing in my veggie garden and I tried getting rid of not knowing that it was edible. I searched it thinking it was a weed and was seeking for ways of getting rid of it… I also discovered that an almost similar plant is poisonous…that prevented me from trying it out. I am still not too sure whether to eat it or not.